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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Sādhana bhakti

Bhakti Rasāmṛta Sindhu review, installment 2: sādhana bhakti.

In his ṭīkā of verse 1 of sādhana-bhakti chapter Jīva Gosvāmī quotes the same BRS (2.1.276), which states that sādhakas may have anarthas even while being qualified to see Kṛṣṇa directly. This is however, according to Visvanātha, not just an ordinary sādhaka, otherwise he would not be able to see Kṛṣṇa directly, but a bhāva bhakta who may be considered a sādhaka because he is not yet completely pure. This is a conclusion by Bhānu Swāmi, which seems feasible to me. Viśvanātha thus comes to the conclusion that bhāva bhakti does not fit either in sādhana bhakti nor in the class of sādhya bhakti. Hence there is a need for a threefold division of sādhana, bhāva and prema bhakti, not a twofold division as some have suggested, of just sādhana and sādhya bhakti.

In his ṭīkā to the verse smartavyaṁ satataṁ viṣṇuḥ (BRS 1.2.8, one should always remember Viṣṇu), Viśvanātha comments: satataṁ pratyahaṁ na tu prati-kṣaṇaṁ tasyāsādhyatvena vidher anuṣṭhāna lakṣaṇa prāmānyāpatteḥ "satatam does not mean every second but every day, because such non-stop smaraṇam is not possible for a sādhaka. They would produce loss of faith in the rules of bhakti, because they would be impossible to follow." An important consolation for a sādhaka....

In BRS 1.2.16 Bhānu Swāmī is the only one who translates the verse, about the 3 faith-adhikārīs, as: "There are three types of persons qualified for vaidhi sādhana bhakti..." Other translations I have here (1 from the Gaudiya Math and a verbal one from Satya-narayan) say that the three faith-adhikārīs are so for both vaidhi and rāgānugā bhakti.

Jīva Gosvāmī writes in the ṭīkā of verse 17 that logic should be understood as logic following the statements of the scripture, because independent logic is condemned in verse BRS 1.1.45, a statement I should have used in the big śāstra-debate with Jagat and friends in Gauḍīya Discussions in June 2004. A faithful madhyama is not a blind fanatic but a person who does believe in scriptures. Even the kaniṣṭha adhikārī has basic scriptural faith.

Bhānu Swāmī's translation of Viśvanātha's 1.2.19 tīkā seems odd: '...the person (kaniṣṭha adhikārī) is not completely unconvinced, otherwise he would not even be considered a devotee...' is a text I cannot find in Viśvanātha's Sanskrit ṭīkā, and also his final sentence: "Later the person regains faith in what the Guru has taught by his own judgement" seems to be different in the Sanskrit text: "anipuṇo balavad vādhe datte sati samādhātum asamartha. tathāpi śraddhāvān gurūpadiṣṭa bhagavat tattvādau manasi dṛḍha niścaya ...." 'The unskilled one is not able to defeat powerful arguments by opponents, but still he has firm mental faith in the bhagavat-tattva taught to him by his Guru from the beginning (ādau)."

In the ṭīkā of 1.2.63 Jīva Gosvāmī makes it clear that it is not a fault not to follow all the 64 aṅgas of bhakti: bhaktyaṅgānāṁ nityānām iti jñeyam "Limbs of devotion here means the eternal (main) ones."

In the tīkā of 1.2.102 Jīva Gosvāmī not only rejects the teachings and authority of Buddha (since he rejects the beginningless paramparā) but also plays down his status to one of āveśāvatāra, an empowered incarnation.

Among the sevāparādhas in BRS 1.2.119, paryaṅka bandhanam, 'clasping the hands on the knees' should be 'squatting' in front of the deities.

In the ṭīkā of 1.2.159 Jīva Gosvāmī writes that the difference between stotra and stava is that stotra is a part of śāstra and stava is self-composed (see Stavāvalī and Stavamālā).

Viśvanātha's ṭīkā to 1.2.174: 'As remaining alive is the cause of a good son receiving his inheritance, so the devotee remaining alive in this world with steadiness on the path of bhakti is the cause of his receiving freedom from saṁsāra and service to the Lord." He then quotes SB 10.87.17 as evidence.

In BRS 1.2.249 Jīva Gosvāmī comments "In vairāgya, one must renounce enjoyment by repeated toleration of suffering. The very nature of these practises is harsh and unpleasant, and thus the heart becomes similarly harsh." (this actually belongs to my blog 'Vairāgya needed?" of November 12), in verse 253 Jīva comes with examples of svargāpavarga mad-dhāma kathañcid yadi vañchanti (in this connection) "My devotee gets heaven, liberation or My abode if he accidentally so desires". Citraketu got svarga (heavenly pleasures), Śukadeva apavarga (liberation) and Prahlāda the Lord's abode. Citraketu is quoted in SB 6.17.3 as reme vidyādhara strībhir gāpayan harim īśvaram "Singing the name of Lord Hari, he enjoyed with angelic women". He balances this out in his comment on the following verse, though, saying: "...if vairāgya is forbidden, the bhakta will be filled with material desires, and that is against śāstra......having a taste for bhakti will destroy the attachment to material objects. Thus, the hardness of heart caused by vairāgya will not take place, and still detachment will take place. At the stage of ruci material attraction will be destroyed for the most part (prāyaḥ)...."

Viśvanātha Cakravartī comments on 1.2.272: "That love-filled thirst, or actions inspired by it, such as stringing garlands for Kṛṣṇa,which generates complete absorption in the object of love, is called rāgātmikā bhakti". There is no fault in this rāga even though it may not conform to expected rules. That comes closest to the statement in 'The Nectar of Devotion" that "in rāgānugā bhakti one does not follow the rules so strictly." Sanskrit: evaṁ sati tṛṣṇārūpa rāgasyānusaraṇāsambhave'pi na kṣatiḥ 'There is no harm or loss if it is not possible to anusaraṇa in this thirst-filled passion." anusaraṇa is, according to Monier-Williams: following , going after; tracking, conformity to, consequence of; custom, habit, usage.

In a footnote to page 304 Bhānu Swāmī claimed that the Vṛṣṇis mentioned in this part of BRS are actually Vrajavāsīs and he seems to be vindicated by Jīva Gosvāmī's comment on BRS 1.2.276-77, wherein is stated that the Pāṇḍavas, despite their intimate friendship with Kṛṣṇa, cannot really be counted as pure rāgānugā role-models 'because that affection is predominated by awareness of the Lord's powers, that sneha should be considered predominantly on the path of vaidhi.".... "If the word sneha is taken to mean general prema, it is impossible to follow such prema since no particular details are given about actions that are unique to such prema. Thus it would not be fitting for rāgānugā sādhana because of the lack of any unique features to support it (upajīvyatva)."

Back to the Vṛṣṇi-controversy, from the comments on verse 1.2.288 of both Jīva and Viśvanātha, it is clear that the Vṛṣṇis mentioned in the Bhāgavata 7.1.31 verse, quoted in BRS 1.2.275 are the ballaba, or Vrajavāsīs and not the Yādavas. Visvanātha ends his tika 288 with: rāga-viśeṣa kāmātmikānām udāharaṇe pradhānatvāt gopya uktās tathaiva rāga viśeṣasya sambandhasyāpy-udāharane pradhānatvād ballabā niveṣanīyāh "The best example of kāmātmikā bhakti is the gopīs of Vraja and of sambandhānuga bhakti the cowherds." The word upalakṣaṇa in the verse is used by Jīva Gosvāmī in relation to the word Vṛṣṇaya (the Vṛṣṇis) means, according to Monier Williams: "The act of implying something that has not been expressed , implying any analogous object where only one is specified". Jīva Gosvāmī calls it an ajahal lakṣaṇa: the original meaning of the word is not given up completely. Bhānu Swāmi explains the controversy in a footnote, reminding us that both the Vrajavāsīs and Yādavas descend from Mahārāja Devamīḍha, and so the Vrajavāsīs are often referred to as Yādavas as well. Satya-nārāyan's statement that the Vṛṣṇis are perhaps rāgānugīs but not pure ones (see blog of July 31) still stands though, because of Jīva's comments on 1.2.276-77, śuddha rāgānugāyāṁ nopayogaḥ (see the above paragraph). My final quotation in the June 6 blog, BRS 1.2.307, is explained by Jīva and Visvanātha as the old carpenter from Hastināpura actually becoming an elderly cowherd parent of Kṛṣṇa during the pastime in which Brahmā stole the boys and calves. (bāla-vatsa-līlāyām tat pitṛṇām iva siddhir jñeyaḥ). The previous verse had already stated vrajendra subalādīnāṁ bhāva ceṣṭita mudrayā - "sādhakas in sambandhānuga take Nanda and Subal as their rolemodels." (The fact that the carpenter lived in Hastināpura does not make him a Yādava) In his footnote here Bhānu explains that 'the definition of rāgānugā bhakti has already specified that the ideal person whom one follows is an inhabitant of Vraja, and not Dvārakā. Thus identifying oneself as a father in Dvārakā is excluded from sambandhānugā bhakti - which is a branch of rāgānugā bhakti."

On to the famous definition of greed as cause of rāgānugā bhakti (1.2.292), ever-fascinating: Jiva Gosvami comments: 'When a person realises to some degree the sweetness of the love and activities of the inhabitants of Vraja...." note the words 'to some degree', which indicate that greed or lobha is not immediately an all-consuming fire in which the devotee is completely pure to qualify for rāgānuga sādhana. Bhanu Swami's translation is however, a bit played down, since yat kiñcit means 'slightly' more than 'to some degree' and he also fails to translate Jīva's important final words in the comment: tad eva lobhotpatter lakṣaṇam iti - 'This alone is the symptom of lobha or greed.' Viśvanātha comments: One can infer (lakṣaṇam) that greed has arisen in the person from recognising this symptom. Nevertheless, it is not possible to say that the condition described is the real essence (svarūpa) of that greed, since that greed does not always include disregard for scriptural injunctions and logic as a necessary component." na tvatra lakṣaṇaṁ lobhotpatteḥ svarūpam iti vyākhyātuṁ śakyam śāstra yuktyapekṣābhāvasya svarūpatvābhāvāt.

On verse 293, Jīva Gosvāmī comments: "Because of following after the rāgātmikas, those practising rāgānugā bhakti practise bhakti without limitations. That means that there is no specific rule concerning the time at which they will give up dependence on the rules of scripture. rāgānugādhikārino rāgātmikānugāmitvāt niravadhir eva tādṛśī bhaktih...Is there a limit to how long those practising vaidhi bhakti should depend on the rules? This verse answers. bhāva here means rati or the stage of bhāva bhakti after sādhana bhakti." Where does that leave the distinction between vaidhi and rāga then?" one might ask. In Bhānu Swāmī's opinion (footnote 68): "At the stage of rati the devotee would not commit sin by his nature, and thus would not have to consider the rules of scripture. However, his vaidhi sādhana would influence his bhāva and prema, coloring it with awareness of Kṛṣṇa as the Lord." In his tīkā, Viśvanātha points out that rāga is far superior to vaidhi because vaidhi needs to wait till the rati stage before the sādhaka can give up śāstra and yukti while the rāga sādhaka can do so as soon as the greed manifests in him. Viśvanātha then repeats his point in the Rāgavartma Candrikā: "However, whenever this greed has appeared, it is understood that the person must have studied the scriptures in order to attain that greed. It is also necessary to study the scriptures in order to understand the proper sādhana for rāgānugā bhakti."

In verse 294 we learn that the BBT translation– “and one should choose a very dear devotee who is a servitor of Kṛṣṇa in Vrndavana.´ - is wrong. Instead it is – “Remembering the Vṛndāvana form of Kṛṣṇa and His dear associates who have inclinations for service similar to one’s own.”  Viśvanātha specifically comments that one should meditate on Kṛṣṇa's kiśora (adolescent) form. Both Jīva and Viśvanātha say that if unable to live physically in Vraja, one can live there mentally.

To verse 295 Bhānu gives a footnote that is rather revolutionary for his milieu: "The siddha rūpa is given by a Guru on the path of rāgabhakti when he sees the qualification for rāgānugā bhakti and a particular inclination in a particular disciple....Along with the form, specific dress and service for Kṛṣṇa throughout the day would be given.....forms of mañjarīs, assistants to the sakhīs of Rādhā, seem to be the most prominent forms given....." Quite a departure from previous versions of this book...... In the next footnote Bhānu writes about serving in the sādhaka-body and the siddha-body: "The idea here is it is simultaneous in rāgānugā bhakti, not at the same instant, but during the same period. For instance, for some hours he will meditate and the rest of the day he will chant, read, and do deity services." This I regard as one option only, because it is well-known that one is able to meditate and practise external sādhanas at the same time.

In his comment on verse 298 Viśvanātha makes the important point that there is a difference between anukaraṇa (imitation) of the gopīs, like not following Ekādaśī or taking initiation, and anusaraṇa, following in the footsteps of their feelings of spontaneous love for Kṛṣṇa. In footnote 74, Bhānu repeats the unfortunate habit of spelling out the secret dīkṣā-mantras in mass publications, in this case the 10-syllable mantra, which is even meant for - born - brāhmins in the first place. In Hari-bhakti-vilasa, verse 2.147 (96), Śrīla Sanātan Goswāmī quotes Sammohana-tantra:

gopayed devatam iṣṭaṁ gopayed gurum ātmanaḥ
gopayec ca nijaṁ mantram gopayen nija-mālikām

"One should hide one's iṣṭa-deva, one should hide one's Guru, one should hide one's mantra, and one should hide one's japa-mālā."Except for a few glitches Bhānu Swāmī did an excellent job on this most important chapter, perhaps performing some ground-breaking work at it.

Bhānu Swāmī made an incorrect translation of Jīva Gosvāmī's comment on the last verse of the chapter:

mātra padasya vidhi-mārge kutracit karmādi samarpaṇam api dvāraḥ bhavatīti tad vicchedārthaḥ prayoga iti bhāva

"The use of the word mātra (only) is used in this sentence to defeat the false proposition that offering of karmas sometimes acts as a cause for vaidhi bhakti (and thus, offering varṇāśrama karmas, certainly, cannot be a cause of rāgānugā which is indifferent to rules)."

The text between brackets is clearly by Bhānu Swāmī, and seems flawed to me because rāgānugā is not indifferent to rules.

Karma does give entry into vaidhi bhakti, as the Bhāgavata (1.2.13) says:

ataḥ pumbhir dvija-śreṣṭhā varṇāśrama-vibhāgaśaḥ
sv-anuṣṭhitasya dharmasya saṁsiddhir hari-toṣaṇam

"O best among the twice-born, therefore, one can please the Lord Hari by nicely performing the duties prescribed for one's own varna and aśrama."


  1. Radhe Radhe

    So really, the other side of Krishnanusilam is such thing as sadhana for raganuga bhakti, based on internal contemplation .

    From your blog: To verse 295 Bhānu gives a footnote that is rather revolutionary for his milieu: "The siddha rūpa is given by a Guru on the path of rāgabhakti when he sees the qualification for rāgānuga bhakti and a particular inclination in a particular disciple....Along with the form, specific dress and service for Krishna throughout the day would be given.....forms of manjaris, assistants to the sakhīs of Rādhā, seem to be the most prominent forms given....." Quite a departure from previous versions of this book......

    However, in the above I can infer that Bhanu is saying and you obviously conform that not everyone who begs a Guru for the revealation of his/her siddha swarup (spiritual identity)will get it; as it is dependent on the qualifications of the devotee, --when and if the devotee is ready. I can therefore see that there is an implied thought that some so-called “traditionalist” Gurus reveal such without discrimination. On the other hand, I am inclined to think of this: Just because democracy sometimes gets abused doesn’t mean it has to be abolished. Similarly just because sadhana relating to Radha-Krishna rasa lila sometimes gets abused which result in Sahajiyaism, does not mean raganuga sadhana should be “abolished", which happened at some point in the parampara line. I am wondering why Srila B Sarasvati “abolished” it.

    This could be a turning point for me. But I am worried what those raganuga sadhana could be? As it is, I have to be very deliberate and do struggle to fit in the material and spiritual pieces of my life together in the 24 hours of the day. I guess my other question is, what can that structured raganuga sadhana do that chanting of the holy names and unstructured astakaliya lila smaranam can not do?

    Thanks, Advaita das, for that very intellectual and generous review of the book.

  2. Dear Malati, as you may know I have become weary of the huge upheaval that comes from publicly discussing such controversies (see my blog of November 14), but I will be all to glad to address these in private exchanges, via e-mail etc.

  3. On second thoughts I am not so sure if the Yadavas can be completely ruled out as raganugis. The only thing the acaryas say is that they are not PURE raganugis and there is no material available on it. I keep my June 6 retraction on board for the time being.

  4. Malati,

    A lot of things in devotional life are kept secret for the sake of gradual development, strong foundation building and fertile ground developing.

    Chaitanya's Godhood for example was not revealed to everyone instantly. It is an inner secret. There is many secrets, lovely secrets. Some of them will be revealed in the way a flower opens feeling sunlight. Our bhajan must be like sunlight.

    Bhaktissidhanta did not abolish anything, he just chose to keep things secret for a little longer then was usual in certain circles.

    He was critized for giving Mantra to too many and indiscriminatly and at the same time he was criticized for abolishing raganuga bhakti. Sometimes from the same persons he got contradictory critiscisms. None of it though is based upon a clear understanding of the inner meaning of mantra, bhajan and raganuga.

    The raganuga path does not need to be preached or protected. It is sublime. It only needs to be kept secret like a lovely secret.

    Bhaktisiddhanta did exactly that. Following him will definitly also lead to raganuga bhakti.

    The term traditional or reformist does not stand in the reality of raganuga. Raganuga is sublime and cannot be claimed\patented by either sect no matter how much they would like to.